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Rethinking Lab Workflows Impacts More Than Productivity

Rethinking Lab Workflows Impacts More Than Productivity

Cheri Walker and her colleagues started Rhinostics in the middle of the pandemic in response to the massive increase in testing volume required to keep faculty and students at Harvard safe from Covid. That’s a story in itself. The principals never met in person for the first nine months!

We had all of our calls virtually. It was all done telephonically, I mean in Zoom. I basically started the company out of my guest bedroom because we didn't need space for the first year. We now have a facility which you can see behind me and we have, you know, all the normal things that you would have as a company grows and expands.

Make sure you listen to get the details on that.

But those workflows I mentioned…

Remember the nasopharyngeal swabs that ticked your brain? No one likes those and processing those samples in that format is cumbersome.

Harvard developed a new type of polypropylene swab with an active end that interacts with a decapping robot. By developing and manufacturing this new type of nasal swab (no more brain tickling) Rhinostics was able to create:

  • A better patient experience with a more comfortable, DIY swab.

  • A smoother automated workflow with faster turnaround and

  • Potentially reduce turnover of medtechs in the lab

I think that's been the flip side of starting a company in the pandemic is just the supply chains and labor and all those issues. And then when you actually talk about the problem that we're solving and the real pain point that exists in laboratories today. Not only are there the cost structures and things like that, it's just finding med techs and people to work in the lab.

And a lot of them got burned out. There was a small number before the pandemic, but a lot of them got burned out. And med tech now is making anywhere from 125, with 20, 000 signing bonuses. And, you know, retention turnover in the labs is something in the 25 to 30, 35%. So, it's a real issue, um, facing most of the laboratories right now.

The automated workflow removes the manual step of decapping swabs before analysis. Barcoding ties the sample to the patient through an app on their phone and allows for better sample tracking. Both of those make for a better experience for the user and the med tech.

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Thanks for being here.

The insight here is that rethinking workflows and a small, unsexy device can have a huge impact on lab productivity, patient health and worker satisfaction. No medtech went to school thinking they would be uncapping tubes all day, rather than looking after equipment and solving problems.

I asked Cheri where sample collection is going in the future. There is definitely a move toward home testing. The pandemic proved that it can be done accurately. There is currently an epidemic of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) for which the option of buying a kit off the shelf at the pharmacy would seem to be a way to discreetly get individuals to seek treatment if necessary while maintaining some privacy.

Cheri also mentioned, for example, having a teenager on Accutane where blood lipids needed to be tested on a regular basis.

You could send our little VERIstic® blood collection device, do a finger prick, send them home with ten of them, and then they can just do it and send it back. They don't have to drag their teenager back to the clinic to stay and wait for a blood draw and keep them out of school…

…it's interesting because everyone, it's not just home health and kit providers that are interested, like the whole hospital health system is trying to figure out how can we use these tools to actually have better health care for people that's more convenient, but still just as accurate and maybe get more compliance.

More powerful analysis on the back end of testing is great, but across life science, I wonder if the real opportunities to make an impact are at the front end of how we do things.

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Life Science Marketing Radio
I interview marketing leaders inside and outside the life sciences (and an occasional scientist) to share the best ideas for making your marketing more effective.